Council OK puts to bed, turns out the light, says goodnight to Château Laurier debate

Rendering: architectsAlliance

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Ottawa Citizen, By Jon Willing

It’s finally lights out for the design controversy over the addition to the Château Laurier.

City council on Wednesday voted 14-10 in favour of the latest concept, created through a negotiated settlement between hotel owner Larco Investments and advocacy group Heritage Ottawa.

Council’s approval means the city will issue Larco a heritage permit with an expiry date in four years from when the document is issued, paving the way for the company to expand the historic hotel.

It caps four years of rebukes and redesigns during which council and city planners were caught playing architecture critics, trying to answer a public outcry while avoiding costly legal battles over a private development project.

The sixth iteration of the addition created by Larco’s architect Peter Clewes of architectAlliance responds to council’s requirements to increase the amount of limestone. It also reduces the negative visual impact from Major’s Hill Park.

Councillors who still disliked the design teed off on the concept during the meeting.

Coun. Riley Brockington called it a “bland, boring and benign” design.

The chair of the built-heritage subcommittee, Coun. Rawlson King, reminded council that many members of his built-heritage panel didn’t have glowing reviews of the latest iteration.

“It is middling, average and of ordinary design,” King said. “It represents ‘good enough.'”

Coun. Glen Gower, who previously chaired the built-heritage subcommittee, defended the design, saying it’s “good for our city” and that Heritage Ottawa’s support for the concept holds significant weight.

“Let’s not be afraid of change,” Gower said.

Coun. Mathieu Fleury, who opposed the latest design for the hotel expansion in his ward, won council’s support for Mayor Watson to write a letter to Parks Canada asking for stronger protections for national historic sites.

The National Capital Commission must also approve the hotel addition’s impact to surrounding federal land.

Council members voting in support of the design were Watson and councillors Jenna Sudds, George Darouze, Jan Harder, Eli El-Chantiry, Jean Cloutier, Catherine Kitts, Laura Dudas, Tim Tierney, Allan Hubley, Keith Egli, Matthew Luloff, Scott Moffatt and Gower.

Voting in opposition were Catherine McKenney, Carol Anne Meehan, Shawn Menard, Rick Chiarelli, Theresa Kavanagh, Jeff Leiper, Diane Deans, King, Brockington and Fleury.

Read this article in its entirety on the Ottawa Citizen website.